Natalie Bieule is a dancer. The Miami-based cubana grew up bailando salsa with her father and performed professionally until 2001, the year the then-18-year-old was hit by a drunk driver in a car accident that resulted in a below-the-knee amputation.
With a promising career shattered by the news that she wouldn’t be able to dance again, Bieule, now 33, could have drowned herself in the sorrow of lost dreams, but, instead, the Latina created new ones.
“I was faced with a dilemma, bury myself in a deep, dark hole or give thanks that I survived and live a life proving my doubters wrong,” she said. The cubana went with the latter.
Bieule is a record-breaking, award-winning athlete and mother of two who is on her way to the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Ahead, find out how this Inspiring Latina is fulfilling new dreams and staying motivated.
When you were 18 years old, you were hit by a drunk driver and lost your right leg. As a dancer, what was this like for you?
It was a difficult thing to accept at first. A lot of people told me that I was not going to be able to do a lot of things that were part of my daily routine, but I think that’s the thing about me: the more you tell me I can’t, the more I’m going to do to prove you wrong, and I think that’s what has gotten me to where I am today.
The doctor told you that you wouldn’t be able to dance salsa again, a baile you always enjoyed with your father. You ended up dancing salsa with him again, however. Describe that moment. How did you feel? How was he?
My father was in the room the day I was told that I would be able to dance, but not as quick or as swift. And if you know what salsa dancing is, you know that it’s very quick and swift. So I saw the look in his eyes. He was the one who first showed me how to salsa and was the first one to inspire me to dance. Three months later, however, on Father’s Day, I gave him the dance he thought he wouldn’t have again. I remember how intense and meaningful the look in his eyes was as we both cried. He actually looked at me and said, “you dance better now than you ever have before.” Every Father’s Day since them, I’ll give him something like a tie, and he’ll tell me, “no, I want the dance.”
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